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Former GM schools reject parent payments

FORMER grant-maintained schools which have absorbed huge funding cuts are refusing to follow the Oratory's lead by asking parents for monthly contributions, The TES can reveal.

None of the 19 former opted-out schools that The TES contacted this week, currently asks parents for a contribution towards teachers' salaries. Yet all have had to absorb at least pound;100,000 of cuts this year - and some have larger budget shortfalls than the pound;250,000 the Oratory is claiming.

Only one of the 19 said it could consider a scheme similar to that at the west London school. A further three ask parents for up to pound;25 a year for items such as buildings maintenance and textbooks - but will not ask for donations on the scale of those requested by the Oratory.

Patrick Hazlewood, head of St John's school and community college, in Marlborough, said he could not contemplate asking parents for money - despite a pound;300,000 funding cut this year and the fact the school is in one of the richest parts of Wiltshire. He said: "It's simply against the whole concept of free comprehensive education.

"The contributions would come from a few families where the breadwinner is, for example, a chief executive of a company, while some of our families are on income support and would be unable to pay. We work very hard to make sure that everyone is equal in this school, and asking for contributions would go against that. It would be a nonsense."

Dr Hazlewood has had to make seven staff redundant this year and draft a deficit budget of pound;170,000 - but the school will not go beyond raising around pound;10,000 a year through raffles, school fetes and the like.

St Peter's school, Huntingdon, was faced with cuts of pound;300,000 to its pound;4 million budget this year, forcing the loss of seven teaching posts at a time when the school roll was growing by 100 pupils.

David Furniss, the head, said he would not ask parents for a regular payment. He said: "I am against it. State education should be funded by the state."

But Anthony Perrett, head of Highams Park technology college in Chingford, which has switched to voluntary-aided status and will be asking parents for a small yearly contribution, said: "I am not surprised in the least by what the Oratory has done.

"I thought the timing made perfect sense. Loads of former GM heads have been writing to David Blunkett about the dire straits that we are in, and this has drawn attention to that situation."

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